I don't usually like to make small talk with the cashier at a store (or anyone else for that matter), but today the young man ringing up my groceries seemed determined to chat me up. "Did you have a good Thanksgiving?" he asked, which was weird because that holiday was two weeks ago, and everyone is pretty much focused on the next one.
Still, I like to please people, and so I smiled and told him that I had. Then I used that trick I learned from a four year old a few years ago. "How about you?" I looked at his name tag and added, "Mohamed?"
He told me that it was very nice. His family is not in the area, but he has a group of friends that are like family, and they all celebrated together.
"Did someone cook a turkey?" I asked.
Yes, they had, but he doesn't like turkey so he only ate the sides. Silence fell then, made a little uncomfortable for me by my perception that he wanted to talk. "Where is your family?" I asked him.
"Morocco," he told me, and I nodded with interest. "You know, this country is not like any other country in the world," he said.
"This country? America?" I asked him to clarify.
"Yes," he affirmed. "There are people from everywhere here. Africa, Asia, South America, Europe-- they all live in America, together. It's very good."
"That's true," I agreed. "But this area of the country is different than some other places."
"I've heard that," he said, but his admiration did not seem diminished. I thought about his limited experience of America and compared it to that of my students, who have grown up and are living and learning in such a multinational environment. I had to agree with him; it was pretty extraordinary.
He put the last of my items into the bag and thanked me. "Nice talking to you," I said and I meant it.